Adam Smith's name has become synonymous with free market economics. Recent scholarship has given us a richer, more nuanced figure, steeped in the intricacies of enlightenment social and political philosophy. "Adam Smith's Discourse" develops this literature and gives it a radical new dimension.
The first book on Adam Smith to deal with recent debates in literary theory, this interdisciplinary work examines Smith's major texts and places them within the context of enlightenment thought. It considers Smith's major writings--the "Lectures on" "Jurisprudence" and "On Rhetoric and Belles Letters" as well as "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" and "The Wealth of Nations"--and places each within its own discursive context and with reference to its stylistic and rhetorical features.
"Adam Smith's Discourse" debunks the view of Smith as a dogmatic free-marketeer. In its place, the book offers a portrait of a more skeptical, philosophical and politically focused figure. It shows that Smith's enthusiasm for the transition to a society based on trade and manufacturing was tinged with a more dispassionate recognition of the losses as well as the benefits derived from commercial society.
"Vivienne Brown examines Smith's works without presuming that authorial intent will suffice to give us the key to several texts. She also questions whether it is enough to place those texts in their eighteenth century context without asking how they can be read as texts. Instead, she takes as a starting point the proposition that meaning is constructed in the process of reading, and tries to identify the discursive framework most appropriate to each text. The result is an utterly fresh treatment that is at once both unsettling and delightful."
-Neil De Marchi, Duke University
"This reading of Smith surely turns economic history on its end. Despite what many readers will find challenging conclusions, this book is lively reading for anyone interested in Smith, and forces us to rethink our most beloved conclusions about his work. [P.H.W. in Book Notes]."